Pendejo Cave

Turnmire, K. 1990


General Description: Approximately 13 mi E Orogrande. Located in south-central New Mexico; the area falls within the northern sector of the Chihuahua Dester province. Lies about 50 m above an arroyo in a small cliff on the south side of Rough Canyon at the wastern edge ot Otero Mesa. A collapse of a brecciated zone in the Yeso Formatoin made the opening to the cave, forming a relatively small limestone cave about 5 m wide, 12 m deep, and with a maximum height of 3 m. A talus slope drops off steeply in front of the cave mouth.

Discovered in 1978, visited by MacNeish in 1989. Excavation began in Feb 1990 and a second season was undertaken in late winter and spring of 1991 by MacNeish. Turnmire (1990): Zone A (5-13 cm), largely of owl droppings [sic], vegetation, and other recent material. Zone B to F mainly Archaic material. Zones C1-C5, alternating vegetal and ash layers. Zone D a 20-cm ash horizon overlying a thin localized charcoal floor, D1. Zone E a layer of gray ash overlying E1, a 20-cm-thick white ash layer, heavily cemented by water, thus preventing the up and down movement of materials. Zone F, a 20-cm-thick charcoal floor, probably Early Archaic (6300-8000 BP). Zones E1 and F1 contained a few extinct mammal bones, thought to be intrusions from earlier levels. With Zone G, a 20-cm-thick ash horizon produced a large number of extinct animal remains. Associated with the fauna "was a small artifact assemblage that included three snub-nosed end scrapers, a prismatic blade, and a graver...." For lower layers, test trench expanded to 3 m width, then extended downward in center 1 m. Zone H: 5 to 15 cm charcoal floor; I: 15-20 cm gray-brown ash; J: 5 to 10 cm charcoal floor; K: 20 cm cemented white ash; L: 10 to 30 cm thick intermixed charcoal and sediment; M: thin gray ash; N: 10 to 30 cm orange sand; O: 10 to 30 cm white ash.

Comments— about 89 chipped tone tools from the lower cave levels, of which there are 12 in Level G and about 10 in each of the layers beneath. Zone G possibly assignable to Clovis. In H to J, a change to a more generalized flake-tool assemblage, including unifacial side scrapers, large spokeshave-like implements, utilized flakes, and large ovoid cores. Spokeshaves and utilized flakes continue into Zone K with the addition of a bifacial core tool and a knife made from a rib bone. Zones L-N dominated by unifacial points, bifacial choppers, utilized flakes, and possible worked bone. Zone O is heavy on choppers and pebble tools and has a bone awl made from the scapula of a horse. Most of stone tools of quartzite pebbles which pretty much have to have been brought in. Pat Shipman will do taphonomy of bone marks; Mike McFaul on area geomorphology, J. Schoenwetter the palynology, Bruno Marino hydrogen isotopes of seed, Harris on faunal remains.

2 Feb 1991. Harris visited the cave in company of MacNeish and Bonnichsen. Rim of Otero Mesa, on S branch of Rough Canyon; Pendejo Canyon is nearby. Chihuahuan desertscrub with slightly more mesic at base of cliffs (Rhus trilobata, Berberis, Apache plume, Koeberlinia, Nolina, Atriplex canescens, a couple species of fern, Yucca baccata ?, Perezia wrighti, Choisyia dumosa). On nearby S slope (cave faces more or less N), creosotebush, tarbush, ocotillo, Parthenium incanum, whitethorn, prickly pear).

Age—Late Pleistocene



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Betancourt, J. L., K. A. Rylander, C. Peñalba, and J. L. McVickar. 2001. Late Quaternary vegetation history of Rough Canyon, south-central New Mexico, USA. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 165:71-95.

Chrisman, D. 1997. Reply to Shaffer and Baker. American Antiquity 62(3):561.

Chrisman, D., R. S. MacNeisch, and G. Cunnar. 1977. Reply to Dincauze. American Antiquity 62(3):556-558.

Chrisman, D., R. S. MacNeish, J. Mavahwalla, and H. Savage. 1996. Late Pleistocene human friction skin prints from Pendejo Cave, N.M., American Antiquity 61 (2):357-376.

DeGarmo, G. C. 2003. Preface. Pp. xvi-xviii, in MacNeish, R. S., and J. G. Libby (editors). Pendejo Cave. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 526 pp.

Dincauze, D. F. 1977. Regarding Pendejo Cave: Response to Chrisman et al. American Antiquity 62(3):554-555.

Harris, A. H. 1995. The vertebrate fauna from Pendejo Cave, Otero County, New Mexico. Directorate of Environment, Cultural Resources Branch, United States Army Air Defense Artillery Center, Fort Bliss, Texas.

*MacNeish, R. S. 1990 (presumably). Excavations of Pintada and Pendejo caves near Orogrande New Mexico. Annual Report and Briefing Booklet, Andover Foundation for Archaeological Research, Andover, MA, 26 pp.

MacNeish, R. S. 2003. Introduction. Pp. 2-15, in MacNeish, R. S., and J. G. Libby (editors). Pendejo Cave. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 526 pp.

*MacNeish, R. S., and J. G. Libby, editors. 2003. Pendejo Cave. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 526 pp.

Shaffer, B. S. and B. W. Baker. 1997. How many epidermal ridges per linear centimeter? Comments on possible pre-Clovis human friction skin prints from Pendejo Cave. American Antiquity 62(3): 559-560.

(*Turnmire, K. 1990. Pre-Clovis barrier broken in New Mexico? Mammoth Trumpet 6(2):1, 6, 8).

Rolett, B. V. 2003. A tribute to R. S. MacNeish. Pp. xii-xv, in MacNeish, R. S., and J. G. Libby (editors). Pendejo Cave. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 526 pp.